“The Last Unicorn” was my favorite film as a child and honestly, remains in my top five even as an adult. The 1982 underrated animated classic is unlike anything that has come before or since. Based on Peter S. Beagle’s 1968 novel of the same name (he also wrote the screenplay), the story follows the titular unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) as she searches the world for others like her, after hearing she is the last. Along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Mommy Fortuna (Angela Lansbury), befriends Schmendrick the magician (Alan Arkin) and Molly Grue (Tammy Grimes), and must contend with the terrifying Red Bull. She also meets King Haggard (Christopher Lee) and his son, Prince Lear. The latter was voiced by Jeff Bridges, who loved the book so much, he practically begged to take part in the film.
“Here’s how it is: Financed in England, produced by Rankin/Bass, American company…but all of the work was being done in Japan, which was a process of Rankin/Bass going to less expensive animators in another country. And they hired –most of the animation was done by a company called Topcraft. And the minute they finished The Last Unicorn, Miyazaki hired them…And in fact, he didn’t just hire them, the studio top rep was in financial difficulties, he came in and took them over and bought them up and turned it into Studio Ghibli. So most of the animators and designers who worked on The Last Unicorn, became the core team of Studio Ghibli. And all of those – ‘Nausicaa,’ ‘Kiki,’ all of them, the great Miyazaki early movies, were done by many of the same people as who worked on The Last Unicorn.”
In addition both The Hobbit (1977) and The Return of the King (1980) were also made by Topcraft. Which means they are also hidden Studio Ghibli films. My opinion is they are both good productions. The Hobbit runs 78 minutes. As you know the Peter Jackson version runs over 3 films lasting a total of 8 Hours and 28 minutes. It’s fun to see what has been left out… yes it’s a lot.
As for The Return of the King (1980) yes the film is shorter by 103 minutes. I like it better than the Peter Jackson version, and I really can’t say why.
Let just add the animation in both productions are fantastic. So if you dare they are really worth checking out.